This blog is in chill-mode, but you'll still find archived posts and book updates/events.

[ FAQ ][ Hunk Gallery ][ Knocktionary ][ Ask a DB Momma ][ Stillbirth Theme Song] [ Contact Me] [ KuKd: THE BOOK]

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tales of Sucking Sounds, And More

Greetings, Y'all!

Well, shit. This is a post I've been dreading writing.

Don't get all excited - nothing juicily awful is happening. Well, I guess some might think it's juicy in certain ways. I've just had some serious writer's block and can't seem to coax the words out regarding this particular...thing. It's like being linguistically constipated. But I'll give it a shot right now, and hope that whatever streams out onto the keyboard makes at least moderate sense. Oh, and it does have to do with that inhaled "hee-yoop" sucking sound from a few posts back, so hooray.

Where to begin?

I know: let's take it back to one sunny day in the middle of July, this past July, about a month after I'd posted about my grating tocophobia - that was, intense fear of having a child. On this particular sunny July day while Kevin was at work, I found myself lying on the soft grass beneath a tree at the neighborhood park, crying probably more uncontrollably than I have in a long time, and watching big fluffy clouds roll across the sky through a blurry film of tears. I had a crying-headache and I'd forgotten a Kleenex, so I blew my nose on a leaf.

(Leaves are not the best snot-absorbers, for the record).

The whole day felt like an out-of-body experience. My legs propelled me home from the park, straight to the phonebook, as I sobbed intermittently like a kid who'd been bullied at the school yard. In fact, that's kind of how I felt: bullied around. I felt like life or God or someone up above - that big Darth Vader being controlling the gears - was fucking with me. My hands flipped through the white pages, easily finding what I needed: Planned Parenthood. My fingers dialed, my mouth asked:

"How much does the abortion pill cost, and how long do I have to take it?"

"Six-hundred dollars. You have until eight weeks after conception."

"Cool. Thanks."

Click.

Which brings me to the hee-yoop sucking sound. In a bizarre twist of reproductive fate, it had to have been THAT VERY WEEK in June - one month earlier when I'd posted about my tocophobia - during which (as my doctor put so elegantly) a wee-bit of spooge got near my crotch and my cervix eagerly went:

HEE-YOOP! Sluuuurp! Sucking up that sperm like a starved camel in the desert. In fact, I may very well have been pregnant when I WROTE that post!

"But...I can't be knocked up!" I told my doctor after skeptically providing a pee-test. "We were diligently doing the pull-n-pray method! My friend Jen's sister said that method works! And she has...like...a degree in public health or something, for fuck's sake! I. Can. Not. Be. Pregnant."

"Monica, you're pregnant."

Crap, I thought.

Followed by:

"Infertility sisters of the blog-o-sphere: I'm sorry that my cervix did an inward sucking hee-yoop. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. If I could give you my eagerly sperm-eating cervix with it's apparently gloriously raw-eggwhite-textured, soul-sucking stickiness, I would. I'd fed-ex it to you overnight. Something cosmically warped and unfair is happening right now, and I can't stop it. I'm sorry."

Look. I have no idea why I wanted to stop this pregnancy, why my first instinct was to slam on the breaks. Never claimed to know how the human mind works, the post-KuKd mind works, where fear comes from, how fear extends its roots deep into the mind and morphs into something bigger and scary than it really is. All I know is that when I suddenly got nauseous and puked that morning in July, I knew I was knocked up - and I was. But there wasn't any joy in this - only terror and weirdness.

* * *

Remember that post about plans, back in late July? About my going to see a shrink, about how having a child simply didn't fit into my new *plan* of living a kid-free life with all the unfettered joys and liberties that entails?

"What are plans, anyway?" She told me, that blond therapist. "They're a defense mechanism we create inside our heads to make us feel like we have control over something. But we don't. Forget about your notion of plans, because it's a made-up concept."

So yeah, the shrink. That was a few weeks after I'd stared, disbelievingly, at the pink plus-sign in the bathroom. Kevin was undecided, open to whatever - but I think he knew, as I did, that I was...well...not acting exactly rationally. Before rushing into Planned Parenthood, he said, maybe going to see a therapist would be a good idea - just to sort out things in my head. So that visit was really about this:

ME, toting strong black tea in a mug: "I'm knocked up and feeling really scared and resentful about it. This is my 4th time getting knocked up and I've never, ever, ever felt this way. I've got another week or two to decide if I want that abortion pill. What in the name of god is wrong with me?"

"You've had a history of miscarriage and stillbirth," she said. "It's normal to feel cautious."

"I really didn't want a baby right now. Wasn't a part of the plan. The *plan*," I told her, "was to drink and travel and have lots of sex for the next five years. Then maybe - maybe - revisit the babymaking idea. We already have our tix to Ireland, even."

That's where I got the whole plan-lecture. Sigh. She was right.

* * *

Crazy things: that's what she asked me to do as part of my...um.."therapy." But then again, I deserved to be asked to do crazy things, since I was kind of acting...well...crazy scared, crazy impulsive. Namely, she asked me to write a letter to the fetus.

"What? Why? This is weird."

"Go on. Here's a notebook. Try writing 'Dear Fetus.'"

I felt really self-conscious doing this fucktarded activity, but I cooperated like a submissive resident of a mental hospital, and I wrote it: Dear Fetus.

"Good. Now, write: I'm afraid of having something come into my life that I can't control. I'm afraid of having my plans burned yet again. I'm afraid of attaching to you, because I might lose you. If I were really connected to you, here's what I would do differently."

It was a lot to write, but I did it.

"Good, now make a list of some things. For example, you told me you would have told your parents by now, your friends."

"Yeah."

"You wouldn't care about giving up your Guinness while you're in Ireland. That wouldn't bother you so much."

"Yeah."

There were a few more things, and my "homework" was to finish that list later on, at home. I told her I would, but I never did. I don't like getting tasks from people.

* * *

The universe inside my head began to subtly shift as the summer went on. The abortion urge fizzled away, the fear - lots of it - fizzled away, too. I got distracted with life's little things - traveling, biking, working, that damned rash on my lower back. And gradually, low and behold, a feeling I hardly expected began to settle in - quiet, hesitant, shy, barely perceptible:

excitement.

It crept up on me unexpectedly like a tide lapping in, pushing fear and insanity out: vague thoughts of baby-related stuff, imaginings of a warm infant to come.

* * *

So, there's a grapefruit-sized fetus inside my pelvis right now. I'm four months along. It's a boy, this one, which we know from early testing. I could name him something just for reference purposes - like a holding card for developing infants - something cutesy and fun like I've seen other people do - Baby Boo-Ya or Lil' Pumpkin. But I'd kinda rather just ride this tide out for a while longer, takin' things day by day around here. That's how we roll.

Third boy in three years, fourth pregnancy of my life. Cautiously optimistic? God, that sounds so cliche and over-said. But yeah: I'm telling the gatekeepers up at the MTV Realworld Penthouse for Bitchin' Stillborn Babes not to keep the lights on for this particular little bugger, but maybe just hang around to let the door open, just in case.

Man, a whiskey would taste good right now. Do they make any kind of O'Douls equivalent of the hard stuff? :-)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Neighborly Loveliness

Greetings, Potlucky Types!

I'll explain that reference in a minute. First, excerpt from an e-mail from my mother via an Internet cafe in Croatia, in my response to my earlier message about looking for a certain kind of futon. This sort of thing makes me laugh, so I thought I'd share it. Starts off sounding fairly normal, but then...

Hi Monica,

I have seen that futon on Craigs list, so check there. Alwazs a pain to trz to transport stuff but sometimes price good, as zou know. Bz the waz, the z kez is where y kez should be, so starting now let;s saz that whenever zou see the letter z it is probablz a y. And the y kez is where the z should be. Also, ć is where apostrophe kez should be, so if zou see ć it is probablz an apostrophe. LetĆs see if zou can read this now. Ićm tired of trzing to delete and tzpe over all mz mistakes on this Croation kezboard. Saz hi to Kevin and pet Teebow for me.

Love, Mom


That's it. That's all I get to hear about their 3-week European sojourn so far, the only imagining I'm blessed with: that of clunkity-old Croatian keyboards with letters in all the wrong places. It was enough to elicit a Sunday morning chuckle.

* * *

Now onto the serious stuff! Time to straighten up in your chairs and fold your hands solemnly in your laps, boys and girls. Let's talk about neighborly love!



These past few weeks, or maybe months, or maybe years, I've found myself feeling oddly disconnected to the world. Lots and lots of people in my life, new friends and projects and acquaintences filtering in, yet this increasing feeling of being over-stretched, under-supported, perpetually stressed out. It's hard to explain what it IS exactly, this sort of overfull and unpleasant sensation. It comes from...not sure...being busy and tired almost constantly? Making social plans to the point where there simply isn't any time left to just chill? Making too many personal connections, yet not devoting enough energy to maintain any of them in a quality way?

It's an odd and counter-intuitive thing to feel, especially considering the proliferation of blogs and Facebook and e-mail and what-nots, all of which - I thought - were supposed to make us feel more connected, not less. Right? I mean, isn't that why so many of us, in this day and age, gravitate toward these social tools? In terms of this blog and the millions of others like it out there, isn't finding connection with other humans who "get it" the whole point, whether that "it" is KuKd or infertility or any other particular experience?

So, if that's the case, then why is it that the more time I spend on these things, the more out of my mind I sometimes feel?

I don't have any hardcore proof, which is to say I've not gone to the library to look up "maternal grieving traditions" or anything. Nonetheless, I've got these storybook images flitting through my mind about how women dealt with the death of a child, born or unborn, back before all these electronic social interfaces existed, back when the only way to connect with humans was to physically go over to someone's house. Or write them a letter, I guess. Or run into them at the general store or the bakery.

In my storybook image of history, I picture a whole bunch of women coming together in their pleated skirts and bonnets - whatever Little-House-On-The-Prairie-esque clothing women wore back in the day - and just being this tight-knit wall of support. Older women, younger women, all gathering around the poor girl who lost the child, bringing her fresh baked bread and tea, distracting her, talking to her, all of them sitting around and talking and crying.

I picture the pastor of the local church (a cute, white-clapboard church with a perfect little steeple) collecting a bunch of extra money in the donations box and ordering flowers for her. Maybe sending a gaggle of church ladies over to help do the laundry or sing her some church hymns. I picture all of the neighbors showing up to bring her some homemade...I don't know...corn fritters or apple pie or something. I picture the grocer giving her a free chicken or a box of cookies as a sign of sympathy.

Now, that big, unified wave of community support isn't something I ever got, or - to be honest - consciously even wanted, I don't think, during my darkest KuKd days. It isn't that Kev and I were short on friends and family, short on phone calls and flowers and cards. We got those. I just didn't feel, really at any point, this whole connected sense of the community - the world around me - really knowing what to do with me, what to do with the death of an unborn and unseen baby.

People didn't seem to know intuitively how to come together and form a wall of support, the way I would have expected it - maybe - back in the olden days. Everything felt like a game of connect-the-dots. A friend here, a friend there, a smattering of visits, an awkward bit of discourse, a random casserole appearing on the doorstep. Some friends had the intuition to throw themselves in my direction. Others groped around for words, stumbling and not knowing how to act. I myself felt uncomfortable with visitors, preferring at times to retreat like a hermit crab and watch movies with Kevin.

Fragmented grieving culture: that's what I called it.

* * *

Fast forward to now.

Tonight I had one of those experiences that sticks with you and makes you think. I'm still thinking about it now. Nothing exciting in and of itself, just an ordinary potluck at the house of our neighbors Josh and Jessica, an annual thing designated specifically for the residents of this block and our immediate vicinity. It's the first time we've attended. Loads of homemade food and about fifteen people milling about the foliage-filled backyard among tiki torches and clinking beer bottles. Kind of a mixed crowd - crunchy, long-haired younger types; a couple of lesbians alternately sitting on each others' laps; a handful of old-timers who've grown up on this street.

Now, Josh and Jessica are two of the nicest people you could meet. You know those people who are so damned nice, so open and warm and friendly, that they make you feel like an asshole just for being you and not them? Like, those people who say hello from the beginning and talk to you as though you're old friends, without judgement or suspicious looks, without shyness or awkwardness or selfishness? Josh and Jessica are those people, and have been for a long time. I so often wish I were one of those gems of a human being, that I were really that kind and selflessly, effervescently wonderful.

Being around them, their happy loving aura, was just soothing. But what's more, we got to meet - not just meet, but have lengthy conversation with - even MORE neighbors! Imagine that! Actually having more than just a cursory exchange of "good mornings" with the people who live on our block, more than a mere FB status swap, a one-sentence e-mail! Let's see. We only bought this house...oh...two-and-a-half years ago. One would think we'd have the balls, the social grace, the whatever it takes, to actually go outside and connect with the people who live a mere stones throw from any given direction from our house.

I like to blame my anti-social behavior on the stillbirth. Check out how well it fits: when we bought the house, I was preggers. Big belly, neighbors waving and asking when the baby was due. No time to socialize when you've got a baby on the way! So much pre-baby Googlinating to do!

Then, suddenly no more belly, but no baby in sight. And - just a few weeks later - boom! A puppy! I really didn't feel like going around and explaining what had happened, that no, I'd not just given birth to a dog, and that no, I'd not sold my baby into the child slavery trade in exchange for a gourmet poodle mix. Normally that would be the job of "that friend" or "that neighbor" - the one who knows you well enough to be the purveyor of such information to others on the street. The problem was, I didn't have a "that friend" or "that neighbor" on the block, someone who I could count on to spread the word to the others.

But there's the real truth, of course, which is...who has time to talk to the neighbors when I'm so busy futzing around on the computer? Editing a manuscript that I'm deadly sick of? Talking to my dog? Being busy? Overscheduling myself? Nobody has time to..say...sit on the old couple's porch with them across the way and sip lemon tea. Nope, nope, nope.

So, back to tonight's potluck. There were neigbhors there, old and young, and we talked. FINALLY, we just talked - about what it used to be like on the block, about stories, about ailments, about kids and family, about the rats that like to run along everyone's fences at night around here. We talked about the sink hole that supposedly exists in the middle of our street (who knew!), about what it was like before the freeway was built, about the lake that used to sit where the mall is now. We talked about little stuff and big stuff - us and all these neighbors. The old folks said to us, "so nice to meet you, another nice young couple on the block!"

I was beaming, and felt full of good food, and full of good old-fashioned human connectedness.

And I knew, suddenly, that had these people been my friends back in the midst of my sudden KuKd awfulness, that these old ladies and young'uns alike - Josh and Jessica and everyone else there - would have come together to be like this old-school wall of support, had things been different. Which is, had I been more open to letting them into our twisted lives. Had I known them for longer, and not had my face in the computer all these years. It made me kinda sad, nostaglic for someting, I'm not sure what. Maybe for a bygone era, a time when people came together more naturally and felt more connected. Or mabye we never really did? Maybe I'm just imagining it after watching too many romantic movies? Maybe humans are secretly anti-social creatures, all of us?

* * *

That's all - no big moral of the story here. Just that this potluck made me really happy, and reminded me to go over to sip lemon tea on Mike and Claudia's porch from time to time, even though it's easier to nestle into the futon and gobble up people's Facebook status-bytes. Or, go over to the other neighbors' yard to pet their pygmy goats (which I had no idea existed). In the end, it's these lovely old people - and all those gems of friends and neighbors and family members who I perpetually take for granted - who matter most when the shit hits the fan.

(OH, and by the way. I started writing earlier about that inhaled "hee-yoop" sound, which - yes - IS indeed a sucking sound, as identified correctly by several astute readers. Contrary to all logic, it is NOT intended to sound like an airplane toilet, although I can see why you might think that, given its close proximity to toilet-related musings in one post. And in fact, it kind of does sound like a toilet! It could be any sucking sound, really. I do have a specific thing in mind, however, which I'll divulge later. This neighborly loveliness thought-fest was just clawing to get out!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On Toilets and Strange Sounds

Greetings, Folks!

Please allow me to indulge in a bit of Sunday-evening silliness. It's a buzzy and nervous night for me. I need to scrape some of this sugary thought-fluff out of my head in preparation for my Big Day tomorrow: the very first day back at school! Summer's over, baby. That's right: no more lounging around in my moose slippers, sloppy ponytail and crusty breakfast-food-stained t-shirt. Nope: tomorrow I'll be putting on something teacherly and wholesome - a long skirt, maybe? - and running a brush through my hair, all in honor of standing up before college students for three solid hours and being...well...their English instructor. Gotta look and act the part.

No force-feeling for me today: this evening's post is on toilets and strange sounds. I've been meaning to talk about this important combination of topics for some time, and tonight seems like just the night.

First, the strange sounds. Well, just one sound, actually. I need your help in determining if I'm explaining a particular sound in precisely the right way.

Please attempt the following:

1) Whisper the sound: "hee-yoop," emphasizing the syllable "yoop."

2) Now, do it again but this time, inhale your whisper instead of exhaling.

3) Repeat step 2 again, but this time sort of close the back of your mouth a bit so that air traveling through there (as you inhale) has to pass through a smaller space.

OK - GOOD! Now, tell me: what does that sound like to you when you do #3 (the inhaled, slightly-closed-back-of-mouth whisper of "hee-yoop?") C'mon, what does it sound like? Tell me! I'm hoping that one person - one would make me happy, but more would be even better - says that it sounds like the thing I'm trying to make it sound like. I like to think of myself as reasonably adept wordsmith, yet when I tested this out on my friend M, it completely bombed - which I fear might mean I really suck at explaining things. So let me try on you astute readers to see if I find more success. I need this sound for a future blog post, in case you're wondering.

* * *

Moving on: toilets. I've been thinking about toilets lately, and feel the need to vent for a second. A surprising number of toilet varieties - including the ones that are supposedly the most technologically advanced - bother the shit out of me (no pun intended), and I couldn't seem to escape the most bothersome ones during my recent foray into the Irish homeland.

*

First, there's the automatic-flush toilets found in many airports today, and in fact found on the very college campus where I teach.



Who thought of these? Seriously: they're wrong. Morally, ethically, physically, cosmically just wrong. I understand the basic premise: enable us to flush away our sorrows without ever having to come in contact with a germ-infested handle touched by many an excrement-molecule-laden hand. But this auto-flush feature is so overboard, so...well...unthinkingly automatic, that I find it ends up being more of a pain than a useful toilet-trait.

Anytime I'm stuck using an auto-flush toilet, the thing inevitably either:

a) Flushes inexplicably while I'm still sitting there. Just what I need: a sudden blast of cool, human-waste-infused mist spraying up against my butt while I'm trying to relieve myself in peace.

b) Doesn't flush when I need it to flush. Which is to say: I'm done with the deed and ready to go, but the thing won't flush - sometimes not even when I wave my hand frantically over the purported "motion sensor" to incite some flush-age. Then I'm stuck with a choice: exit the stall anyway, leaving some poor hapless victim to walk in on my unflushed "gift of bodily self" in the toilet, or simply hang out and wait - with growing irritation - for the toilet to independently decide it's time to flush? Of course, this always happens when there's a long line for the restroom.

Talk about innovation taken to such an extreme that it becomes...no longer innovative. Look. Give me the good old-fashioned toilet with the long metal handle, the kind you can flush with your foot. I'll take that any day over this!

*

Airplane toilets are next on my toilet hit-list.



Dude, these scare me. Is it really necessary to make such a god-awful, mind-blowing sound every time they flush? When I was a kid, I remember thinking that was the sound of the contents of the toilet being forcibly sucked right out of a hole in the bottom of the airplane, straight into the atmosphere, where it got caught in a spinning mass of blue-antiseptic-chemical-stained poop and pee and toilet paper from OTHER airplane toilets, eventually drifting upward into outer space or plummeting into the ocean.

I sensed that if I left the lid up, or stood too near, that I might get sucked down there too. I still feel that way sometimes. At least, I felt that way on my United flight from Chicago, where the airplane toilets seemed particularly, unnervingly loud. Why are they so loud? Why, why, why?

*

Next is the self-covering toilet
:



Look. If I want a protective covering between the backs of my thighs and the toilet seat, I'll just put together a nice little mosaic-sheath of toilet paper to sit on, thank you very much. The issue with these self-covering deals is that the plastic is presumably supposed to move over automatically, allowing new and unused plastic covering to take the place of the older used segment. The problem is that I never actually see the thing move, so I really don't know if it IS in fact a fresh, clean plastic sheath.

Which sort of takes away the whole point, doesn't it?

*

So, I've decided that the toilet industry has lately gotten overly fixated on automation as the be-all, end-all solution to everything. But ya know, sometimes it's good to be in control of the situation. We all have enough to worry about regarding the task of releasing bodily waste; who needs the added complications of automated toilet systems that don't really work?

(Although someone should really get in there to make those airplane toilets less frightening - and if that means a bit of automation, I'll take it).

;-)

* * *

NOW, back to that noise you're supposed to make - scroll up to the top of this post if you somehow missed it. Go ahead and try it! Now, what does that sound like?

Monday, September 14, 2009

KuKd Word: FORCE-FEEL

Greetings, KuKd Strong Mommas/Daddas and Inquisitive Guests!

I've only lost one meaningful grown-up human in my life, and that was Granny back in 5th grade. She was in her sixties when her heart stopped suddenly. This particular granny - my mom's mom - was a jolly, slightly heavy-set woman with painted fingernails and a kick-ass condominimum overlooking downtown Seattle. This woman knew how to live, let me tell you. She picked me up from school and babysat me every afternoon, and gave me Kraft caramels from her kitchen drawer and petite-four cakes from her freezer. Sometimes she dragged me around to visit her old-lady friends, and I liked nestling into the white leather backseat of her huge Monte Carlo. Granny laughed a lot and always had big-band jazz and swing music playing somewhere, and loved me so fiercely that I could feel it through her perfumed hugs. She was like this happy, lovey, personality-filled blast from the past. My mom told me her arteries had clogged up from all the butter and Beef Wellington and sweets that she ate.

What an honorable way to die.

I don't remember what all I felt as a child attempting to process her death. I do remember watching on in horror and astonishment as my parents both cried on and off (because...you know...parents just don't do that sort of thing), especially my mom, and following suit to join in on the crying. But I think I was mostly crying because I was confused, because watching the adults who form the hulking walls around your safe little childhood-world break apart into tears is a definite moment of WTF??? for a 5th grader. I was also crying because right around that time, my big brother and his friends walked into my carefully constructed Barbie city in on the basement floor, knocking over my Barbie McDonalds and making little plastic cheeseburgers and fries go flying in every direction. Oddly, I remember that just as clearly as Dad telling me in a shakey voice that Granny was gone.

Mom told me several months later, "Nobody is ever really dead until people stop talking about them." And our family did, for a while, make it a point to talk about Granny from time to time. That was Granny's favorite restaurant! That's where Granny got her car washed! Granny would have loved this casserole! We moved to Buffalo NY, and there I recall lying on the lawn of our suburban house with my hair spread around me like a halo, looking up at clouds, and trying to channel thoughts to Granny - especially on sad days when I felt lonely (which was a lot of days).

But after a while, the conversation about Granny - the lying there and consciously trying to imagine her, the memories of her death itself - sort of melted away. Time passed, my brother and I grew up, my parents moved on. We all went in different directions. Does this just happen with death? Like, will Patrick Swayze disappear from the front news headlines in a few days or weeks like Michael Jackson did? Does it happen with real people in our lives, like parents and friends and spouses? I don't really know, since I only have Granny to go by.

It's frustrating how little I actually remember about how and when and where she died; about what I was doing and thinking when it happened. Even everything I just mentioned could be a figment of my imagination; was it really THEN that the Barbie McDonald's got attacked? Or was that an earlier year? Am I confusing that with the My Little Pony town that got demolished, or the head of my Cabbage Patch Kid preemie doll that got squashed? Those petite-four cakes - were they really in the freezer? Or the cupboard? What did my Dad say, exactly, to announce her passing away? And where was Mom when he said them?

And Granny's body. I have this picture in my mind of her lying on her bed in that condominium, face-up in a black velvet jogging-suit type of thing, lipstick on and nails painted, my mother opening the door and walking in, finding her there, her body cold, Frank Sinatra playing softly in the background. Mom letting out some sort of piercing cry and running down the hall, fumbling for a phone, dialing 911. Where do I get this image from?

I wasn't even there.

* * *

Fast forward to 2006, hot and buzzy summer in rural Arkansas. When the first fetus (also known as Boy Fetus or Grapefruit, since he was grapefruit-sized), my mom saw me lying in a hospital bed while I waited for my body to kick into labor. I was a pathetic little strand of a person under that white blanket, having dropped a bunch of pounds and shat a bunch of watery shit because the hospital would only feed me Popcicles and chicken broth (don't get all excited; I gained it all back and then some).

Her face crumpled and she said, "Don't worry. That little baby is with Granny now."

I kind of squirmed and felt awkward when she said it, because it just seemed like one of those kind of silly things that parents say when they don't know what else to say. Uh, nice try to make me feel better, Mom, what with the fairytale of Granny up there with my little Grapefruit, feeding him petite-four cakes and rocking out to Bing Crosby in some smoky jazz club. But later I thought about it more, realizing it was comforting to imagine that there might be something in it for this almost-child who never set foot on the planet, something worthwhile after his or her death.

It also made me think back to what my mom had told me back in 5th grade: nobody is ever really dead until people stop talking about them. And right then, twenty-or-whatever years later, we had talked about Granny - boom, just like that. Weird, how easily she came easily to the surface of our minds at a time like this. Maybe the dead only make an appearance when we need them the most; maybe gas prices from heaven are astronomical so those spirits up there have to economize.

On a few occasions since then and even before, I've found myself wanting to return to the horror of Granny's death, fly down that cylindrical tunnel of time through years and months and days, just to be there and live it again, no matter how painful and awful. Force-feeling, I call it - kind of like force feeding, but with feelings instead of food. And low and behold, I've done the same thing with you know who: that feisty little disappearing Zachary.

And why? For what? To remember them both alive? Can't be that, since the part I long to return to is the time when they became dead, not living. To remember them dead? Perhaps, but again...why? To dredge up old memories to make sense of my confused, 5th-grade thoughts and later, my even more confused 31-year-old thoughts? Because, when a shit bomb gets dropped on my head, I guess I tend to check out for a while, and it's only later when I'm ready that I long to check back in?

Come on, Shitty Moment. Take me back! I know I sort of bailed when you were happening. Just let me back in for a second so I can see what you were really like before you're gone forever.

* * *

Introducing today's KuKd word:

FORCE-FEEL (v): the act of purposely reliving a negative experience, just because it feels good in a sort of masochistic way. Noun: force-feelage. Adjective: force-feely. ("Don't look at those old medical records. That's such a force-feely thing to do.")

Example:

"Honey, why are you sitting there bawling and eating ice cream straight from the carton?"

"Because I spent the morning force-feeling. Leave me alone for a while; I'm trying to be depressed and you're distracting me!"


Now, force-feeling with a death that happened when you were a child: that's a tough one. So much time as gone by that you've got little memory-molecules left in your brain to work with. And that was before all of the technological means we have these days that keep a virtual "footprint" of such events. E-mails, blogs, Facebook, etc.

Fortunately today we've got so many tools for force-feeling! Stuff just doesn't go away! Which - if you're a force-feeler - is a good thing. I've done this with Zachary a few times, and did it just recently after seeing the movie Up, which brought up more sobby, gutwrenchy bawling than any movie I've ever seen since Schindler's List. A good time to force-feel, when the emotions are already churned up like a good, fluffy meringue for a lemon pie.

Force-Feeling: Here's how the pro's do it, ready?

The best way is to make use of technology. E-mail, specifically. If you're like me, your Yahoo inbox contains some 20,000 some-odd messages dating back to 2003 or earlier. It's easy to do a search for messages sent on or around the EXACT DATE of the horror. Perfect for reliving the moment! So you get a cuppa joe, unhook the phone, snuggle into a big comfy chair with a box of Kleenex, and start reading. The moment, the thoughts you were thinking and the feelings you were feeling, and the impressions that other people were getting, will flood back to you so fast that pretty soon, you'll be feeling up a storm.

Force-feeling up a storm, that is.

Here's a sampling of my own.


August 15th (day before the horror)

Darren, Jayson, Jared:

Are any of you free, strong, awake, and potentially hungry this Sunday morning at 9:30? We need some strong sexy studly men to help move some big, pain-in-the-ass stuff in our house. And, as prego princess, I have no choice but to stand by idly, nibble on pastries and just watch. We'll be done with most of the basement semi-finishing project and need to shift stuff around to get the baby room ready. Free breakfast included, so come hungry!

xoxo - monica


*

August 16th (oh fuck - but don't worry, I sound just fine)

Hi all,

Very sorry for the semi-mass e-mail and be the breaker of bad news, but i'll be away from the computer for a few days so thought i'd give you an update.

Our baby boy (it's a boy, it turns out) is dying from heart failure - some rare congenital defect we just found out about this morning. He's not expected to survive more than a few days. A bunch of top cardio specialists and what-nots confirmed this at UW hospital today -nothing we expected at all, just something they discovered in a routine check-up this morning.

Anyway, we're going into UW medical center Friday morning to induce labor, probably will be there thru Sunday -expect a stillborn or baby to live less than an hour after being born. We're actually doing OK at the moment, appreciating each other more than ever, looking at it as another "not meant to be" situation, and preparing to move on with our lives. Anyhoo, sorry for the shitty news, nothing anyone can say or do so don't worry about it. we'll keep you posted in the meantime and have our cells at the hospital.

-m/k


*

August 17th (from a guy-friend)

Hi, Monica.

I'm very sorry to hear about this. Let me know if there's any way I can help with anything (well, you know, not with any medical procedures, but, say, helping you move heavy things or buying you cups of coffee).

Jared

*

August 24th: (from Mom in Europe)

Hi Monica, we never got to an internet cafe in Oslo, ran out of time. But guess what, we found out that in many cities you can hop on for 1-2 hour free at a library, so that's where we are today. Smallish town Norway. It'll take time for the pain of your loss to subside. Allow yourself to grieve. Your life will have so many happy times, but some sad times, too. What you experienced was such a significant loss that don't be surprised if some corner of your heart always feel that loss, but the pain of it will diminish and you'll feel joy again, I promise. If you feel even an inkling of the need, please talk to your doctor or Group Health and get ahold of a grief counseler to help you with this. OK? You know intellectually that there are many wonderful things that will come your way, but you'll need to work through the feelings of loss, so do whatever you need to. Whether it's painting the walls or playing spades or talking to a counseler, do what you need to do. We love you.

About travel stuff, change of topic, did you know in Denmark there is a 180% tax on cars and a twice a year property tax on cars? That puts people on buses and bikes!

Love, Mom


*

August 19th
(from my older brother)

I just returned from the beach, where watched the sun set and cried for probably the first time in two years. It truly broke my heart to think that this was a baby who was about to become part of our family...your son, my nephew. I must tell you that it also feels good to me on some level to feel this emotional about you and the baby. I struggle sometimes to find relevance in my world when it can sometimes seem kind of shallow. To feel this emotional about you and the baby made me feel more human.

There's a famous quote that I can't recall but it says something about the difference between the people who sit on the sidelines and critique and those who compete in the ring of life. It's sort of macho, something about a bloodied gladiator emerging victorious, but I think it kind of applies in this case. You and Kevin are living life to the fullest and whatever the outcome you should both be proud of that.

Love, Paul


* * *

So, they're just snippets, like little flashbacks of various episodes. But I save these e-mails and treasure them, and thank the corporate yahoos over at Yahoo for creating a natural holding place for memories, because these relics that preserve a dead creature in my mind. I wish we had some such things for Granny, too. And yeah, it's sad to reread those things - but I do it anyway - because that's what Force-Feeling is all about.

Especially useful for stubborn asses like me - who can't "feel" on command. I think I finally got the counselors and social workers to understand this: I'll feel when I...um...feel like feeling, okay?

OH - and by the way! THIS IS IMPORTANT! I *strongly* recommend Force-Feeling only when your husband or other male-counterpart not around. If he's typically or stereotpyically guy-ish like mine is, he'll say something ridiculously rational like, "Why are you reading those old e-mails if they upset you so much?"

Ah, men. Some things they just weren't meant to get. ;-)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Incredible-Hulk-Bitch Gallery

Greetings Once Again!

Apologies for burning everybody out, including myself, by indulging in a rare "two-days-since-the-last-post" post. I realize it's a bit much for all of us, so feel free to simply think: "enough of you already!" and X right out of this post without reading further. I won't be offended if you return to whatever important thing you were doing, your fruitless Google-searching for grown-up pictures of that kidnapped Jaycee girl who was just found alive with two pale children some 20-or-whatever years later. (Good luck on that one. Believe me - I've tried finding such pictures to no avail. Personally, I'm beginining to wonder if the whole thing was made up.)

Requests - all TWO of them! - for Ireland pictures have been flooding in from eager readers! Now that I've pulled my camera from the inch of water accumlated at the bottom of my backpack, and air-dried it on the sunny deck, I thought I'd post a few pictures here while the subject of that rainy, pricey, yet peculiarly wonderful country is still fresh on my mind.

Let us begin with beautiful Cork City, our very first night in ye old Irish homeland. Gorgeous lighting, isn't it? Despite the look on my face (which sort of reminds me of the purse-lipped woman in that old TV commercial for shampoo: "Pantene Pro-V. Brilliant."), I have not yet morphed into Incredible Hulk-Bitch at this point. Actually I'm just so exhausted from jetlag that I can't even muster the effort to turn my head and look at that beautiful river behind me. No no. I'm already thinking about bed and food. Luckily, I have this photo to remember Cork by:



Setting off on our ride to the southern coast, my sprits are high. There's a wee bit o' drizzle, but so what! God made rain for earthly gain. That's my motto. After picking up a stylish blue poncho for a mere four euros, I'm ready to attack this moist day of cycling.


The poncho turned out to act more like a sail, billowing behind me and yanking me backward no matter how hard I peddled, so eventually switched to my more aerodynamic (yet less water-resistant) jacket. Three hours of steep uphill riding and gushing rain later: "Screw it. I'm walking." It's the first sign of metamorphosis into Incredible-Hulk-Bitch. I changed this picture into black-and-white to symbolize the mood change:


But wait: a scenic detour down the hill in the rain...weeeeeeee!!! Oh wait - you mean this road dead-ends into the ocean? The map didn't show that! That means we have to turn around and go back up the....never mind. Damn Irish map-makers, those sadistic assholes. You only did that to mess with the minds of innocent tourists!


There was a wee bit-o-sun from time to time, yet the Hulk-Bitch was still in full force. Behold the fake-smile of thinly masked irritation ("I'll look at the scenery after we stop somewhere to eat and I've had a chance to air-dry my thoroughly soaked underwear, which are hiked uncomfortably up my arse"):



After checking in to our Clonakilty hotel: the tone of the evening has already been set. Monica is in bitch-mode with aching ass and still-cold extremities despite hot shower. There will be no silly sex tonight, no rolling around on the bed and doing frivolous things. This will be a night of staring grumpily and silently at the TV or laptop or whatever while I allow my resentment of the rain, the hills, and the Euro to fester like a puss-filled wound. Tonight, we will act like an old, burned-out couple that's been married 50 years and doesn't talk anymore - so don't even THINK about turning toward me trying to get it on!

You won't get far with this cranky spinster at the moment.

Sorry, can't converse with anyone right now or look up at the stunning, hulking medieval castle looming before us. All that matters right now is that this food makes its away into my mouth as fast as humanly possible.

So what if a car comes: they can move. This Hulk-Bitch is taking a nap, right here and now.


BUT...so much good stuff too! Fortunately for everyone, especially Kevin, the Hulk-Bitch didn't last too long. The Irish wonderfulness came through in so many ways, starting with walk in the sparkly post-rain countryside of Sheeps Head Peninsula:


Sun and sea.


Why do these people get to live somewhere so beautiful? I want this to be my life.




Woo-hoo baby! Downhill!



Mmmmm, food at the Bantry market. Doesn't this look so...French? For some reason I like the way Kevin looks reaching for his wallet.


Below, a typical breakfast: this one consists of potato cakes, a fresh scone on the side, some Weetabix cereal (one of my favorites), a beautiful poached egg in an intriguing cup-shape (how DO they do it, those Irish?), AND - the absolute best part - THE BACON. Ahh, wonderful Irish bacon.

Take a moment and just look at that bacon. Even if you're a vegetarian, just look at that bacon. Thick cut, not marbled with fat - much more meaty and substantial than what we have in the states. Almost ham-like in quality, but with a thin, golden salty "frame" of fat around the edges, just enough to melt in your mouth and make you glad you're not a Muslim. I could eat plates of the bacon all day and not get tired of it, ever!

If you haven't looked at the bacon, look at it now: zoom in on it if you like, and examine and admire its fine fibrous texture. By the way, I do like pigs, as I've said before. I like them for their intellect, their personalities, their endearing fatness. Still, somehow I have absolutely no trouble eating them. Whenever I eat bacon, I try to pretend that it's not pig flesh, but rather, just this little shred of goodness that fell from Heaven and landed into a frying pan in some kitchen before arriving at my plate:


Bantry cove - the village where I spent a solo night. I did finally leave my guest house to meander around and take pictures. Look at this soulful, poetic sky:



My sunny solo walk in the hills. I ate salty, oil-cured olives during this walk and thought about not much of anything. Imagine living in that house, right there!








In the end, these Irish eyes were smilin'!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just a Silly Superstition

Greetings, Guests and Regulars!

Back on U.S. soil, my underwear - what's left of it - still damp with Irish mist. Anytime I travel overseas, my socks and undies seem to disappear. I'm sure it has to do with my packing and unpacking method: wad everything up and stuff hastily into backpack; dump backpack upside down on hotel floor upon arrival; kick crumpled clothing mass over into a designated "Monica's Mess" corner of the room; then gather it all back up and re-stuff into backpack upon depature. Not exactly conducive to keeping track of underwear.

(Kevin, on the other hand, folds everything neatly into rectangles and sets, not crams but sets, them into his own backpack. He puts his socks together into sock balls, which never ceases to amaze me. He never loses socks or underwear. Thank god he has whatever gene makes us notice and care about things like wrinkled clothing and dirt and general disarray, or our house would be wreck, and thank god he forgives my own lack of this gene.)

* * *

Speaking of genes, did you know that 75% of the genetic make-up of a child comes from the father, and not the mother? It's true, according to the old Irish man who approached me and Kevin to chat while we were shivering underneath a covered bus-stop in Bantry. He was a farmer with white hair, a few missing teeth, that slightly moth-ball-ish old-person smell, and a thick country-Irish accent I could hardly understand (but of course found endearing).

He asked if we had children and we said "no," to which he responded by peering closely into our faces, looking us up and down, and remarking that he could tell we had "good stock for a strong brood." I decided not to burst this adorable man's bubble by divulging how, um, weak our stock-n-brood really was, historically and statistically speaking anyhow.

Then he asked how old I was, and when I told him thirty-three, his slightly-cloudy eyes got wide with genuine concern. Time is running out! Better start now, he said: have one boy (since the boys are the ones that spread 75% of the family genes down the line) and then a girl. Oh, and I should be eating plenty of fresh meat and dairy produce everyday to for the "strongest stock." I felt oddly happy to be able to emphatically say, "I already do!," and the old man looked pleased as well. I can't imagine what he would have thought if I'd told him not only my shocking age, but that I'm a vegetarian. He probably would have shaken his head in dismay and thought, poor little lassie. She'll never have her strong brood.

Just before toodling off in the rain, he told us he had twelve grown children of his own, and that he and his wife had gotten started producing their "brood" when she was just seventeen years old. Then, when a sort of sad and faraway look in his eyes, he told us she had died fifteen years ago from something-or-other. Now he lived alone on the farm.

* * *

Our bus to Dublin pulled up just then, and Kevin and clamored on to find two seats together.

"Twelve kids?" he said. "No wonder she died early from something-or-other."

What a funny old man with his accent and his outdated beliefs about where our genes come from, about meat and dairy making a strong brood. It was as though he'd stepped out of a medieval storybook page. What nonsense, this man was spewing forth! I know plenty of vegetarians - well, a few anyway - with kids in hand or on the way. And suggesting in semi-seriousness that we just"have a boy and then a girl," just like that? How simple and lovely life would be if it were this easy to come up with a plan - "eat steak and milkshakes, have a boy, and then a girl" - and for such plans to work out flawlessly. Clearly he's out milking cows and not on the Internet reading infertility and KuKd blogs. He just doesn't understand what it's really like out here in the brutal, dog-eat-dog world of 30-plus women trying to make babies.

(And by the way, as if I would want twelve kids. As if Kevin would want me churning out babies all my life, and for what? So I could wear out my poor vaginal canal and die young like this guy's wife did, leaving him alone in the soaked hills of County Cork?)

Kevin and I both chuckled and shook our heads. What a funny old man. Kind of refreshing, actually, his innocent naivety about the whole thing.

Still, on our transatlantic flight home, I found myself unthinkingly asking for an extra pat of butter for my scone. Asking for a carton of milk instead of my usual tomato juice when the beverage cart came rattling by. Digging around first for the ground beef in my pasta, making sure that it had number one priority on its way down my esophagus before the less-brood-enhancing spiral noodles.

Wanting, sort of sheepishly, to shed the foul-mouthed cynicism for a moment and believe. Believe this old man's medieval storybook advice, believe that Kevin and I have some "good stock" in us, that we could somehow produce a "strong brood" that doesn't wither in utero; that eating blue-cheese-stuffed-bacon-wrapped fillet mignon might help with that; that any brood we produce might in fact be comprised 75% of rational and organized Kevin and just 25% of irrational and disorganized me. Daring to want, for just a fleeting second, to carry out this old farmer's perfectly logical plan: have a boy next year. And then a girl. Simple.

But then again, believing just seems so...tiring sometimes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Flowing Irish Spring of Thoughts

Top-o-the-Mornin' To Ya, KuKd'ers and Inquisitive Guests!

Time to churn out some rambling thoughts from this tiny fishing village, nestled between the green cliffs and choppy gray ocean of Sheeps Head Peninsula. Ireland, that is.

* * *

Dear Euro: I hate you. You are an insensitive, pompous, bloated bastard. You make my dollar look like crap. Everytime I think about you, how many of my pathetic little dollars it takes to match your swollen strength, I want to punch you in the face. You are the reason for which it costs $8 for a beer, $10 for a scone and a cup of tea, $8 an hour to sit in this Internet cafe. You need to lose weight, fatso, and come back to earth. You're not as great as you think you are.

* * *

Not far from Cork City is the Blarney Castle, upon which is perched the Blarney Stone, which hoards of gawking tourists flock to in great big busses. I had heard that kissing the Blarney Stone brings good luck. It's one of those things in Ireland that you're supposed to do, and check off on your list of "things you did in Ireland" - like visiting the Louvre in Paris, or the Statue of Liberty in New York. That alone - the simple fact of it being something that everybody supposedly does - would normally be reason enough to avoid doing it. Kevin and I have always agreed on that point when it comes to traveling.

But this time, I suggested to Kevin that we break or cardinal rule of avoiding anything on the tour-bus circuit. Feeling that my uterus was in need of a dose of good luck, I told him I ought to lift up my shirt and press my abdomen against that stone (hoping that the stone itself wouldn't transmit some strange form of herpes to my tummy skin from so many internationals touching it with their moist, pursed lips).

Kevin agreed that it might be a prudent thing to do.

But when we looked it up in our guidebook to find directions, we discovered that the Blarney Stone doesn't actually bestow good luck, contrary to popular ill-informed belief. In fact, it bestows the "gift of gab."

Shit. The last thing I or my uterus needs is more gift of gab. If I had any more gabbing ability, I'd surely scare away everyone important in my life. So we canceled our Blarney Stone visit and ducked into a pub instead.

* * *

I am alone.

Not alone in the sense that there aren't any other people around. There are other people, of course: milky-skinned, freckle-faced families with accents to die for, farmers that look like such stereotypical Irish farmers that I can't help but stare (rubber boots, knee-length green pants, plaid wool vests, those Irish beret-like hats), butchers and bakers and candlestick makers.

It's just that I'm alone, without Kevin - and slept decadently in the shape of a sprawled-out starfish on my queen-size bed last night. The idea to part paths came about as I sensed myself turning into what I call the Incredible Hulk-Bitch, and - for the sake of marital/personal/psychological health - thought it best to separate, me going off to do "my thing" and Kevin doing "his thing." For those of you who live in remote fishing villages and therefore haven't seen the Incredible Hulk, a quick lesson: it's an old show from the 70s or 80s about an ordinary guy who- whenever he gets angry - turns into this big, green, mean, angry monster-like thing (with awesome arm-muscles, if my memory serves me right) who throws stuff at people and breaks things. His grave warning to others was always: "Don't make me angry. You won't like me when I'm angry."

Here's what my grave warning to others should be, and Kevin would probably agree with this: "Don't make me hungry, cold, wet and tired. You won't like me when I'm hungry, cold, wet and tired."

There have been several times in our relationship when I've found myself turning into this person I'm embarrassed to be: a thoroughly bitchy, whiny, sulky, petulant, passive-aggressive, blaming-everything-on-Kevin, openly-complaining Incredible Hulk-Bitch. This is one of those times. It pretty much always has to do with physically pushing myself beyond my comfort zone - biking, hiking, what have you - and growing unbearably hungry and tired. Everything then becomes Kevin's fault, of course, for not predicting this would happen and suggesting a different activity from the very beginning; for not showing sufficient empathy; for not producing a warm scone from his coat pocket when I desperately need food.

Poor Kevin could not have known that cycling in Ireland - for me anyway - was a doomed prospect from the get-go. First, we brought our bikes here, even though I knew - deep down inside I knew - that my ass was completely tired of being on a bike. I didn't want to admit that - after our east-coast biking escapade - I'd almost rather eat stale cow shit than spend another day on bumping around on my rump and getting blisters on my palms. Well maybe not, but still. You get the picture.

To make matters worse, we quickly discovered the big, bad dilemma of cycling in Ireland: once you get into the countryside, there are no street names, no street signs, no landmarks, anywhere. Just lots of forks and multi-pronged sporks in the road where a whole bunch of identical sheep-strewn, single-lane roads branch off each other toward identical, sheep-strewn hills. So if you're trying to get to, say, a certain town 20 kilometers away, you repeatedly find yourself at an unmarked crossroad with no choice but to take a wild guess as to which way to turn. You think to yourself: hmmm, this looks southwest-ish. I'll turn here. Inevitibly, it turns out you're in fact going northeast, which you discover 45 minutes later, and have to then backtrack to that same 3-pronged spork in the road, and take a different prong. Because you're a blindly bumbling Yank (and a Murphy, no less, toting around all of the bad luck which being a Murphy entails) with zero farm-road instinct, chances are your second guess is wrong too.

So, needless to say, much of our last three days were spent backtracking and looping and circling and staring hopelessly at our useless and inaccurate road map. Oh - and did I mention that Ireland is full of steep, steep hills - so that all of this wrong-turning and backtracking involved retracing our steps up and down those monstrous hills - AND that this was happening in the face of gale-force winds and driving rain?

"Just enjoy the adventure of all this!" said Kevin with what I perceived as forced optimism.

"I might enjoy it if I could feel my extremities!" I replied through gritted teeth, my blue plastic poncho whipping behind me like a sail, holding me back as I peddled against the wind. Busted: my pissy attitude revealed, as if Kevin hadn't already sensed my spirits plummeting. "Who the hell built this hilly, rainy country without road names," I said.

"But look at the farm houses. You like farm houses."

"I don't give a damn about the farm houses. I need food and we were supposed to get to Clonakilty like five hours ago and there's no end in sight and I'm freezing cold and my ass hurts!"

"Be like how you were in Uzbekistan," he said, "when you didn't mind stuff like this! Remember how carefree you were all the time, even when it was hard?"

Ahhhhhh, "how I was in Uzbekistan."

Is it really possible to eternally be the exact same person you are when somebody first meets and falls in love with you? To always show your best, best side - the side that enchanted them and drew them into you at the very beginning? Of COURSE I would never show Kevin my Incredible Hulk-Bitch side during our courtship days. No, no, no. Some things - like your rotten moods and the "signature stench" of your farts - are best left kept secret until...well...until you're married. :-)

Anyway, I knew he wanted to keep riding that bike, so - rather than force myself to do something that directly causes my mood to drop to its lowest point, I decided to hop a bus to our next destination and meet him in a few days. Kevin agreed more readily than I was hoping: this sounded like a good plan. So off we went, separate ways. I was relieved to be off the bike, but secretly nervous about being alone.

* * *

We live alone inside our heads for so much of the time; why is being actually, physically alone so unnerving sometimes? Being alone in a strange land: it makes me uncomfortable at first, a little bit scared. It's been so long since I've slept alone, eaten alone, meandered through unknown streets alone. I've only done this once since Zach's dirth, and that was in Ecuador. It was good for me in some self-helpy spiritual way, I suppose. But secretly it depressed me to be alone.

This time, as I stepped off the bus into the driving rain in the village of Bantry, at first I didn't know what to do with myself - so I just stood there with my great big bike-suitcase (yes, mine is a special bike that comes apart and fits into a suitcase) and backpack, rain pouring directly onto my head and dripping down my chin, looking pathetic and taking out my damp, dog-eared guidebook to find a place to stay. Even after checking in to a cold, crumbling Victorian bed-and-breakfast, I still felt at odds. What to do as an anonymous visitor in this remote village, as rain poured from the slate gray sky? Duck into a pub and sidle up next to a stranger? Somehow the thought depressed me.

So I took a long shower instead and settled in bed to read a book I'd picked up along the way, sheets of rain beating against my rippled windows.

This book is called "The Adultress" by some famous British author who now lives in Ireland. I was instantly sucked into this book, and forgot about the rain and the hills and the aloneness. It's about...well...several generations of Irish/English women cheating on their husbands for various reasons. There's more to it than that, of course - ghosts and haunted apple orchards and World War II and lemon cakes and things like that. I was fascinated by several things in this novel.

First, the way in which the book ultimately portrays adultery on the part of men and women as happening for different reasons, and that - when women do it - it isn't always entirely her fault. Or, rather, it's for reasons far more complicated - even perhaps understandable - than simple, selfish betrayal of a husband. As for what those reasons are, well, you just have to read the book.

Second, a very large percentage of the adultery that took place in this story unexpectedly had to with...drumroll please...KuKd! That is, there was a pattern in several of these women: pregnancy loss, or a string of losses, occurred. Then came the adultery. There were reasons for this - the isolation of KuKd grief, the way it can push a man away - but that's a whole 'nother post.

* * *

Falling headfirst into a good novel was exactly what I needed to kickstart this alone-time. Just me, my thoughts, my little Ireland-world. I've noticed the rain here stops around mid-afternoon when the frustrated sun breaks through scattered clouds, casting this ephemeral sparkly light all over everything. It's what makes Ireland one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, this time of day, when the green hills turn emerald and the ocean is flecked with glimmering sunlight.

When this happened yesterday I finally set down my book (reluctantly) and went for a walk by myself along a lonesone, rocky ridge over the sea. I had stopped at a little gourmet food shop and bought an entire tub of oil-cured olives coated in salt, which I munched on contentedly as I walked. God, I love olives. I wasn't really thinking about anything or having epiphanies every five minutes - just taking in the scenery, my mind at peace, feeling really calm.

Despite the Euros (fucking fatso fucktarded currency), the hills, the rain - Ireland is a country which, as my friend Al says about certain bars in Seattle, "speaks to me." The people are the friendliest I have ever met. The landscape is rugged and brooding, and even the climate I enjoy - just not while cycling uphill. I like feeling cool and gray and having to bundle up. And the bread! That Irish brown bread made without yeast, dense and yummy and biscuity and sconey? With slabs of cold salted butter on top? Christ, I could eat that all day every day.

And I like this little burst of alone time. Ireland is a perfect place to do it. Now I'm off for my second ridge-walk, after which I get to come "home" to my dimpled hotel bed and finish my novel, and wait for Kevin to show up. Tonight we get to eat out, together! - and each tell the stories of our separate journeys. I can't wait to hear about his. I just hope his ballsack and taint are still in tact after all that cycling.

As his wife, I do have a stake in his ballsack and taint, afterall.